White stork

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White stork
Ciconia ciconia (aka) .jpg

White stork ( Ciconia ciconia )

Class : Birds (aves)
Order : Ciconiiformes
Family : Storks (Ciconiidae)
Genre : Real storks ( Ciconia )
Type : White stork
Scientific name
Ciconia ciconia
( Linnaeus , 1758)

The White Stork ( Ciconia ciconia ), also stork called, is a bird art from the family of storks (Ciconiidae). He was bird of the year in Germany in 1984 and 1994 .

Shape and vocalizations

White storks are around 80 to 100 cm long and have a wingspan of around 200 to 220 cm. Except for the black wing feathers, the plumage is pure white. The bill and legs are reddish. White storks weigh around 2.5 to 4.5 kg.

The voice of the white stork is weak. It communicates by rattling its beak , which is why it is also called rattle stork . There is clatter to greet the partner at the nest and to defend against nest competitors. His courtship ritual also goes hand in hand with extensive common beak clapping.


The white stork feeds on small animals such as earthworms, insects, frogs , mice , rats , fish , lizards, snakes and carrion . It rarely eats eggs and nestlings of other birds, especially ground-breeding species. It does not specialize in food, but instead eats prey that is often present. That is why the white stork is called a food opportunist. On the island of Föhr , the white storks also feed on the Wadden Sea. They eat crabs and fish.

Its hunting method is highly characteristic and makes it recognizable from a great distance: it strides through meadows and marshland in search of prey, and then dashes down at its prey in a flash with its beak. It can also lurk at a mouse hole like a heron with bent legs and then suddenly stumble. In shallow waters, it bills through the water for prey.

Amount of food

White storks need about a seventh of their body weight in food every day, which corresponds to about 500 grams of necessary food intake for a white stork with an average body weight of 3.5 kilograms. This refers to larger prey such as B. mice or carrion. Large pieces of prey up to just under 1000 grams can be swallowed as a whole, since the cork's bill is not suitable for cutting up prey and carrion. In the case of food for small animals such as earthworms or insects, the stork needs a significantly higher daily amount of food. When hunting and foraging for food, the stork knows no restrictions with regard to the type of prey, only when raising the very young offspring is a targeted search for earthworms, insects or small frogs.

Nesting and breeding behavior

Competing white storks in the nest fight
Young white stork foraging for food

The white stork, which can reach an age of over 35 years, nests on ledges, trees, buildings and electricity pylons. He colonized open and semi-open landscapes. He prefers moist and water-rich areas such as floodplains and grassland lowlands. It breeds in Europe from Spain to Russia, in Western Asia from Turkey to the Caucasus and in North Africa . White storks become sexually mature around the age of four.

The nesting place of the white storks is called the eyrie . The breeding season extends from early April to early August. The male arriving earlier chooses the location so that there are sufficiently large foraging grounds within a three to five kilometer radius. The scarcity of such areas, even in rural southern Germany, means that one can hardly find the former large stork colonies with up to five eyrie on a house roof or more than 50 nests in a village.

Since a pair of storks remains loyal to its nest for decades and the nest building is never completed, the nest can reach a height of several meters and a weight of two tons - no other European bird builds such a large nest. The change of a nest usually happens when the male mates with a new female or when breeding was not successful in the previous year.

In the care of a zoo, a pair of storks may overwinter at the nesting site when they are fed. The clutch consists of 2 to 8, on average 3.81 eggs, white with a fine grain and twice the size of a hen's egg. The breeding season, in which both partners breed alternately, lasts 30 to 32 days; an average of 2.96 young storks are hatched. The subsequent nestling period lasts between 58 and 64 days. The breeding success per nest in Central Europe is largely independent of the human population in the area.

Migratory behavior

Distribution and migration routes of the white stork
summer winter

A flock of white storks during the autumn migration over Israel

The white stork is a migratory bird , the most wide annually distances between its breeding quarters and its winter quarters in Africa south of the Sahara travels. The white stork is a glider pilot that uses warm updrafts ( thermals ) to pull . Since there are no thermals above the water, the white stork flies around the Mediterranean to get to Africa.

The “Eastern Storks” migrate to Africa across the Bosporus , the Jordan Valley and the Sinai Peninsula. They move up the Nile Valley to Sudan. From there the train continues towards East Africa. The winter quarters of the eastern storks are in East to South Africa. They cover a distance of around 10,000 km. You need one to one and a half months for this route. The flight to the south is usually started in mid to late August, with the young storks starting one to two weeks earlier than the adult birds. The return flight begins in Africa in mid-February, the return usually takes place in early March to early April.

The Zugscheide runs roughly from the northern edge of the Alps via Lech, Regnitz, Kyffhäuser, the southwest of the Harz, Osnabrück to the IJsselmeer. The so-called "western storks" fly over the Mediterranean near Gibraltar to spend the winter in West Africa from Senegal to Lake Chad. The west migrants are more likely to return to the breeding areas in spring than the east migrants (the majority of the white storks nesting in Brandenburg and Eastern Europe) who migrate to Africa via Turkey .

There are numerous variations between pure west route and east route pullers. Only a few birds take the middle migratory route via Italy to Tunisia.

An increasing number of westerly storks from Central Europe are shortening the travel route and are staying for the winter on the Iberian Peninsula and in North Africa, where the animals live in the area of ​​human settlements and find their food primarily in landfills . If a few of the white storks remain on the Iberian Peninsula, the rest of them move to Morocco and a tiny part to Mali. Time and again, storks remain in their summer locations even during the winter. So far, most of the cases have been released animals that were used to humans due to injuries and exhibited disturbed migration behavior; therefore it was often necessary to keep these individual animals in care over the winter. Most recently, however, real overwinterers were also observed, for example six breeding pairs in the Main-Kinzig district in winter 2014/15.

Inventory development

White storks "plowing" in Mecklenburg

Since the mid-1980s, the worldwide population of white storks has risen sharply, which is very well documented by stork counts. Areas from which the white stork had disappeared could be repopulated. In Austria and Switzerland, the white stork populations are larger today than at the time of the first census in 1934.

The white stork used to be a common breeding and summer bird throughout Central Europe . In the course of industrialization, however, there were large decreases in stocks. The reasons probably include the draining of wetlands, the conversion of meadows into fields and electric shocks from overhead lines (see bird strikes ). In particular, the populations of the white storks migrating west have partially collapsed down to local remnants. These remnants have been supported by reintroduction, which has led to an increasing number of resident birds in western Central Europe, some of which are dependent on human feeding.

In 1934, when the first international stork census took place, there were around 9,000 pairs of storks in what is now Germany , compared with 4,800 in 1959. In the second half of the 1980s, the lowest level was reached with 2949 pairs. At the beginning of the third millennium, around 4500 pairs of storks are breeding again in Germany. There are also around 400 couples who breed in animal parks, bird care stations or their surroundings, etc. and feed on the food available there. These feed-dependent pairs are listed separately. As recently as 2004/05, 90% of the nearly 4,500 pairs of storks in Germany were nesting in the new federal states; in the 1950s this proportion was 50%. Since then, the populations in western Germany have recovered significantly, while in eastern Germany they have stagnated and in some cases, as in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, are even declining. In 2018 two thirds of the 6900 pairs of storks were breeding in West Germany. Studies indicate that the population increase in (Eastern) Germany is less due to its own population, but is mainly a result of immigration from Eastern Europe. In the Red List of Germany's breeding birds from 2015, the species is listed in Category 3 as endangered.

To determine the German white stork population, NABU has founded the "Federal White Stork Protection Working Group", which publishes the population figures in an annual report. On its website on the white stork, NABU has been arguing for ten years with population figures up to 2008. Since then, the stork population in Germany has increased from 4297 breeding pairs to 6302 (2016). It can therefore be assumed that the ecological condition of the white stork's habitat has noticeably improved.

In Switzerland there were in 1900 about 140 breeding pairs. The population decreased more and more in the first half of the 20th century, so that in 1950 there were no more storks breeding in Switzerland. However, through reintroduction (on the initiative of Max Bloesch , who became known as the “stork father”) and protection, the population had increased to 211 pairs by 2005.

In Austria , the largest breeding populations are in Burgenland and Marchfeld along the Danube. In the last few decades efforts have been made to protect the white stork. In Marchfeld in particular, the storks are returning to nesting sites on trees in the wild, such as in Marchegg , while in Burgenland nests on house roofs are part of many places, such as in the city of Rust , where there were 16 couples with a total of 38 cubs in 2008 gave. The first population survey was carried out in Austria in 1934 and resulted in 119–130 breeding pairs. While there were only 276 pairs in 1987, 392 pairs were breeding again in Austria in 2004.

Poland is known as the land of storks. In 2004 about 52,500 pairs were counted there. This corresponds to about a quarter of the world's population. The Polish environmental protection organization Pro Natura is of the opinion that this will not change too quickly; because in Poland, especially in Masuria (in northeastern Poland), the storks have ideal living conditions.

Since the mid-1980s, the number of white storks has increased again in most breeding areas within Europe. Some areas from which the white stork had disappeared could be repopulated, partly with the help of humans. The 5th International White Stork Census 1994/95 showed a world population of about 166,000 pairs of white storks. That is an increase of 23% compared to 1984. The VI. The international white stork census 2004/05 was again coordinated by NABU (Michael Otto Institute in NABU in Bergenhusen ). The preliminary results showed a further population increase of 39%, so that the world population can currently be estimated at around 230,000 pairs. The IUCN classifies the white stork as "not endangered".

In the British Isles, where no breeding storks have been observed for about 600 years, conservation organizations are trying to make the white stork home again. In March 2014, a pair of nesting storks were discovered in Norfolk County . The first white stork offspring in the wild were registered in West Sussex in 2020 .

The young birds sometimes fly over the Bavarian border on their exploratory flights in late summer. Then your path leads over the Bosphorus, Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea. We continue south across the Nile Valley to East or South Africa.


There are two known subspecies:

  • C. c. asiatica Severtsov , 1873 - This subspecies occurs in Central Asia.
  • C. c. ciconia ( Linnaeus , 1758) - The nominate form occurs in Europe, western Asia , the Middle East, and northern to southern Africa.

Legends, fables, music, painting, films, pop culture

Painting by Carl Spitzweg : The Klapperstorch, 1885

According to European legends, the stork brings the babies. With his tale The storks made Hans Christian Andersen , this idea very popular. According to German folklore , storks bring babies they have found in caves or swamps to their mothers in a basket or drop them down a chimney. Sweets on the windowsill for the storks should help fulfill the desire to have children. This folklore has spread worldwide - also to South America and the Philippines.

The stork has inspired other legends, but also paintings and songs:

  • In many places the white stork is considered a lucky charm .
  • In popular belief, the stork was considered inviolable.
  • In Alsace , the children, who were also brought by the stork, are only dropped off where the stork can still hear Alsatian speaking, "like d'r Schnawwel g'wachse isch"; otherwise it will fly on. In the rest of France, the white stork occurs mainly as a migrant and only rarely breeds. Accordingly, he is not considered to be the bringer of the children there.
  • In the Baltic States , the flight of a stork directly over the head of a young woman is interpreted as an indication of pregnancy .
  • In Thuringia , the stork takes over the tasks of the Easter bunny .
  • The stork also appears in a number of fairy tales and fables , such as Jean de La Fontaines' The Fox and the Stork . The stork's fable name is "Adebar". He is often addressed as "Master Adebar".
  • Eduard Mörike's poem The Stork Message was set to music by Hugo Wolf .
  • Carl Spitzweg lets the white stork carry a baby in his painting Der Klapperstorch .
  • The stork also has the title role in Wilhelm Hauff's art fairy tale Kalif Storch .
  • A stork is depicted on the Slovenian euro coins at 1 cent and the earlier 20 tolar coins .
  • A high correlation between the number of pairs of storks and the birth rate has been calculated for several European countries . This is a prime example of a spurious correlation that appears in statistics textbooks .
  • In the animated film storks , the antagonist Hunter, the protagonist Junior and most of his work colleagues are white storks, as well as the stork Jasper, who only appears in the course of the film.


Since many "Eastern storks" migrate to winter quarters across the Middle East to Africa, it is not surprising that the stork is also mentioned four times in the Bible . In Leviticus 11:19 and in Deuteronomy 14:18 it is assigned to unclean animals , which Jews are forbidden to eat. In Psalm 104 : 17 the stork is seen as part of God's creation . In Jeremiah 8 : 7 it is emphasized that the stork knows exactly its departure and return times, and thus an indication of its migratory bird behavior is given.

See also

“Flat share” of white storks in the Alentejo


  • Christoph Kaatz, Dieter Wallschläger , Krista Dziewiaty, Ute Eggers (eds.): The white stork: Ciconia ciconia. die neue brehm library 682, reading sample pdf Online VerlagsKG Wolf, 2017, ISBN 978-3-89432-273-1 .
  • Hans-Günther Bauer, Einhard Bezzel , Wolfgang Fiedler (eds.): The compendium of birds in Central Europe: Everything about biology, endangerment and protection. Volume 1: Nonpasseriformes - non-sparrow birds. Aula-Verlag Wiebelsheim, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-89104-647-2 .
  • Otto Hahn: The white stork. Black prospects for the white stork. Neumann-Neudamm Verlag, 1984, ISBN 3-7888-0432-7 .
  • Gerhard Mayer: The white stork Ciconia ciconia in the Wittelsbacher Land . In: Aichach-Friedberg district (ed.): Altbayern in Schwaben 2016 . Yearbook of history and culture. 2016, ISBN 978-3-9813801-4-9 , ISSN  0178-2878 , pp. 181-195 .
  • Volker Schmidt, Katja Schupp: Out and about with the storks. Stork princess on a world tour. Kosmos Verlag, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-440-10665-9 .
  • Carl von Linné : Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, Cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis . 10th edition. tape 1 . Imprensis Direct Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm 1758 ( online [accessed March 23, 2015]).

Web links

Wiktionary: White stork  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : White Stork  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Wiktionary : Klapperstorch . Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  2. Anne Bäurle: Romeo and Juliet catching crabs. A pair of storks founded a stork family on Föhr. In: time online. October 2, 2014, accessed October 2, 2014 .
  3. ^ A b Andrew Elliott: Family Ciconiidae (Storks). In: Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, Jordi Sargatal (eds.): Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks . Lynx Edicions, Barcelona 1992, ISBN 84-87334-10-5 .
  4. NABU: Profile of the White Stork . accessed on January 25, 2013.
  5. Pablo Vergara, O. Gordo, José I. Aguirre: Nest size, nest building behavior and breeding success in a species with nest reuse: the White Stork Ciconia ciconia. (PDF). In: Annales Zoologici Fennici. 47, 2010, pp. 184-194.
  6. a b Karl-Heinz Renner: Adebar makes itself rare - storks in Germany, Spain and Portugal. ( Memento from September 30, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ The stork year 2010 on the page Die Störche Oberschwabens , accessed on April 9, 2011.
  8. The Storch family and their home - the Horst ( memento from September 17, 2012 in the web archive archive.today ), accessed on April 9, 2011.
  9. ^ Pablo Vergara, José I. Aguirre, Juan A. Fargallo, José A. Dávila: Nest-site fidelity and breeding success in White Stork Ciconia ciconia. In: Ibis. 148, No. 4, 2006, pp. 672-677.
  10. NABU: The White Stork - A Bird of the World. 2009, p. 19.
  11. Nu er der otte æg i storkereden. May 19, 2020, accessed May 24, 2020 (Danish).
  12. a b c Jakub Z. Kosicki: Reproductive success of the White Stork Ciconia ciconia population in intensively cultivated farmlands in western Poland. ( Memento from June 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF). In: Ardeola. 57, No. 2, 2010, pp. 243-255.
  13. The white stork - character bird of Niederlausitz. ( Memento of April 13, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) Page of the White Stork Information Center in Vetschau, accessed on April 2, 2009.
  14. ^ Willem Van den Bossche: Eastern European White Stork populations: Migration studies and elaboration of conservation measures. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation , Bonn 2002.
  15. Bauer u. a, p. 275.
  16. Alexander Kempf: Missed departure . P. 10, accessed December 29, 2009.
  17. Andrea Flack, Wolfgang Fiedler, Julio Blas, Ivan Pokrovsky, Michael Kaatz, Maxim Mitropolsky, Karen Aghababyan, Ioannis Fakriadis, Eleni Makrigianni, Leszek Jerzak, Hichem Azafzaf, Claudia Feltrup-Azafzaf, Shay Rotics, Thabiso M. Mokotjomela, Ran, Martin Wikelski: Costs of migratory decisions: A comparison across eight white stork populations. In: Science Advances . Volume 2, No. 1, January 22, 2016, e1500931, doi: 10.1126 / sciadv.1500931 .
  18. Gelnhäuser Tageblatt. December 16, 2014 based on reports from HGON.
  19. Katharina Dellai-Schöbi: Millions of birds die every year from power lines and wind turbines. There are ways to change that In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of September 14, 2018
  20. [1]
  21. J. Schimkat: Are the populations of the east-migrating white storks Ciconia ciconia stable? In: Actitis. 39, 2004, pp. 73-107.
  22. Christoph Grüneberg, Hans-Günther Bauer, Heiko Haupt, Ommo Hüppop, Torsten Ryslavy, Peter Südbeck: Red List of Germany's Breeding Birds , 5 version . In: German Council for Bird Protection (Hrsg.): Reports on bird protection . tape 52 , November 30, 2015.
  23. ^ BAG White Stork Conservation - Publications. Retrieved July 8, 2018 .
  24. ^ Entry of the white stork in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, accessed on August 22, 2012.
  25. Thrigby Hall nesting storks may end 600-year wait. April 1, 2014, accessed April 1, 2014 .
  26. First wild white stork chick 'in centuries' hatches in UK. BBC News, May 15, 2020, accessed May 17, 2020 .
  27. Storks: balance better than feared - new week - new week. Retrieved October 17, 2019 .
  28. ^ IOC World Bird List Storks, ibis & herons
  29. Nikolai Alexejewitsch Severzow: Vertical ʹ noe i gorizontal ʹ noe raspredelenie Turkestanskikh zhivotnykh . In: Известия Московского о-ва любителей естествознания, антропологии и этнографии . tape 8 , no. 2 , 1873, p. 113 .
  30. ^ Carl von Linné, p. 142.
  31. ^ Marvin Margolis, Philip Parker: The stork fable - some psychodynamic considerations. In: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. 20, No. 3, 1972, pp. 494-511.
  32. Hanns Bächtold-Stäubli, Eduard Hoffmann-Krayer (ed.): Concise dictionary of German superstition . Volume VIII, Berlin / Leipzig 1937, pp. 498–507. (Reprint: Berlin / New York 1987, DNB 861193695 )